Societal Impacts of World War II on America

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On September 1, 1939, World War II began with Germany invading Poland due to Adolf Hitler’s belief that the Aryan race was superior and that the Jews were the cause of all of Europe’s problems at the time, especially Germany. During this war, Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to remain neutral, but after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States joined into the war effort. During 1941 the United States was still trying to recover from the Great Depression. When the war started, many people were needed to produce food and weapons for the soldiers on the front lines which provided jobs for those who have been out of the workforce for several years.

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As the majority of the men were being sent away to fight, women were hired to take over their positions on the assembly lines. Following World War II, many women were worried about keeping their jobs as men were returning home from war, but due to their participation during the war, about thirty percent of women worked outside the home. After the end of World War II, the United States went through numerous changes. The numerous changes were for the betterment of the United States which allowed for many advancements in the workforce, medicine, construction, policies, and job opportunities, because of these turbulent times, the American society was transformed forever.

At the end of World War I, the Treaty of Versailles was drawn by the Allied Powers blaming the Germans for the war damage. The treaty required that Germany pay reparations for all the damages causing Germany’s economy to become ruined. Afterwards the Germans were desperate for someone to turn around their economy and restore their pride, leading Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party to rise in power. Hitler became the dictator of Germany and gave Germany hope that he could bring their economy out of ruins. “Adolf resented the restrictions put on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles.” Hitler was searching to expand Germany’s empire which caused the start of World War II as his army invaded Poland in 1939 because he felt that the Aryan race was superior, and Hitler also “eradicated the Jews and other “inferior” racial stocks.” A few days later on September 3, 1939, in response to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Britain and France, both allies of Poland declared war on Germany.

During World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted the United States to remain neutral and refused to join the war with the allies. America remained neutral for two years until the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Japan’s intention for this attack was to destroy American fleet units, which would prohibit the Pacific Fleet from interrupting with Japan’s conquest of the Dutch East Indies and Malaya. “Along the fleet at Pearl Harbor, life was going along at a saunter as the Japanese kept bombing the fleets.” This attack also allowed Japan to conquer Southeast Asia without the allies’ interference. The attack on Pearl Harbor rapidly frightened the divided United States into action. The public’s opinion had been inclined towards entering the war during 1941, but numerous amounts of people had differing views until the attack. It seemed that overnight, the Americans wanted to unite as a whole against Japan to honor the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Two days after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the American people by radio: “We are all in it together—all the way. Every single man, woman, and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history.” On December 8, 1941, Britain and the United States declared war on Japan which brought the United States into the war ending their policy of neutrality.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not trust the Japanese Americans that lived in the United States. As a result, Roosevelt issued the Executive Order 9066 which commissioned the Japanese Americans to be relocated, meaning that there would be internment camps filled with tens of thousands of American citizens that were of Japanese ancestry. Japanese citizens and noncitizens that lived in America were taken to internment camps in fear that they were spying on the Americans for the Japanese government. The Japanese Americans were not treated poorly while they were in these camps. They only had to remain there until the war was over and they were no longer a threat to the United States. Roosevelt kept the Japanese Americans in the internment camps for three years. After the war ended, Roosevelt no longer feared that the Japanese Americans were a threat to the United States so they were freed and sent back to their homes to restore their lives. As they returned home, they were faced with the loss of businesses, property, and discrimination because they were seen as a threat to America due to the attack on Pearl Harbor led by Japan. Although the Japanese Americans were freed because the war concluded, most Americans still considered them as a threat to the United States. It took the Americans a lengthy time to not consider the Japanese Americans as hazards to the nation.

The United States was still recovering from the Great Depression as they entered the war in 1941. The Great Depression was a worldwide crisis which was a cause of World War II. As the war started, the government needed food and weapons to be manufactured and sent to the soldiers that were out fighting on the front lines. The manufacturing of war supplies created jobs for people who had been out of the workforce for several years resulting from the Great Depression. “As the majority of the men were going to fight in the war there was a gap in the labor force made by these departing soldiers which gave job opportunities for women.” Most women in the labor force took jobs in the factory and office instead of in the defense industry. During this time period, many women were earning more money than they ever had acquired, but it was still less than men were making. Working women, mostly mothers, struggled to take care of their children and work in the factories. Eleanor Roosevelt addressed this issue by insisting that her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt to create the first government childcare facilities. This did not fully help working mothers but it did help them out a lot. A decent number of “women joined the military during World War II enlisting in jobs as nurses, truck drivers, airplane mechanics, and clerical work to free up men for battle.” Women were proving that they could do more good outside the home and this changed how they were viewed in the workforce. World War II lead the United States out of the Great Depression by providing job opportunities during the war for those who needed a salary.

After the war ended, many women worried that as the men returned from combat that there would no longer be jobs available for them, and they would have to return to their typical jobs inside the home. As men began to return home, many women were laid off from their factory jobs, but women leaped back in the workforce quickly. By 1950, about a third of women began to work outside of the home, and of those, half were married. World War II proved that women were in the workforce for good, not only to stay in the house all day. After the war, “there was a huge impact left on women that changed their expectations which made a difference and bettered their names in the workforce.” Women working in factories during the war changed the way that they were viewed and where they worked.

After the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, Vice-President Harry S. Truman stepped into his place as the new president of the United States. Although Harry S. Truman was Vice-President, the Americans were nervous for what decisions that he would make for the safety of the Americans during World War II. Now all the decisions that were made for the country are responsible in President Truman’s “hands.” “Mr. Truman said that he would try to continue the foreign and domestic policies of the Roosevelt Administration just as Franklin D. Roosevelt did himself.” With Truman aware of the heavy weight of the country added on his shoulders, he now had to pull out a victory for the allied powers to save his country.

The United States endured many societal impacts after World War II, and the majority of these changes were for the prosperity of America. One of the best transformations to American society was the mass migration of families from inner cities to the suburbs. People began moving to the suburbs because there was more of an availability of land. This idea was created to make a better life and a stronger and more protected families than being in the big cities. Also, the land was less expensive to buy than in urban areas. Another reason people moved to the suburbs was that there was fear of the rise of crime in the cities. Many of the people that moved into the suburbs were veterans of the war along with their families. After people settled into their new homes, churches were built for people who wanted to worship and this allowed for more families to communicate about their new homes. As people began to communicate about where they lived and the type of home they lived in, neighbors began to compete with each other by showing off their wealth. Due to these competitions, “the automobile and manufacturing industries saw an enormous growth in their profits.”

“Due to the migration of citizens from urban areas to the suburbs, the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act of 1956 was passed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for easier and faster travel.” The act approved the building of highways throughout the United States, which became a huge public work project in American history. Initially, former president Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, wanted to build a highway system to grant people jobs that were in need of work during the great depression. Roosevelt’s ideas never were further thought upon because the United States had just entered World War II and there was no time to build a national highway system. The reason that the president drew this act for the interstate system to be created was that it would make the evacuation of large cities simpler in case of an attack by a foreign country. The idea of the national highway system was not brought to the table until after the war was over and the nation had begun to come back to order. This act was “fully paid for with taxes that were placed on items that were needed for this nationwide project such as gas, oil, tires, buses, and trucks.” The two industries that brought in the most tax money was the automobile industry and the construction of the homes in the suburbs. America as a whole benefitted from this act and this is one of the reasons why we have the complex interstate today.

During World War II the American soldiers were faced with chemical warfare which they have not had experience with this kind of war technique. The “medical scientists played a key role in American preparation for chemical warfare,” as they were trying to understand the consequences of the chemicals and weapons and use against the chemicals they performed human experiments. These experiments involved many men risking their lives voluntarily and involuntarily by putting their bodies on the front lines to expose themselves to the chemicals so scientist could better understand what they are dealing with. After the war, the United States went through huge changes in the medical field after scientists dealt with the chemical warfare problems. These changes helped people to live longer and lead healthier lives. Penicillin and the polio vaccination were created to extend people’s life expectancy. The federal government also supported the National Institutes of Health in 1948 so that the scientists could continue their research to help extend people’s lives. One major downfall with the new medical improvements is that the treatments are very costly, so not even social class of people could share these advancements. As a result, there was the creation of Medicare in 1965 for the older population and Medicaid for the lower classes and people who were unemployed.

World War II allowed for a revolution in the American society even after they were attacked which forced the United States’ neutrality policy to be broken as they joined into the war. Joining the war allowed citizens to go back into the workforce since the Great Depression because war supplies were needed for the fighting soldiers. As men went away women began to take over men’s jobs in factories as they were fighting in the war which later allowed the women to be viewed differently in the workforce. During the war, soldiers were faced with chemical warfare they have never experienced before which allowed scientists to perform experiments, later this led to the advancements in medicine we have today. As men were returning home from the war they moved to places they felt were safe for their families, and the United States as a whole wanted to protect themselves from future attacks which allowed for new acts to be put into play.

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Societal Impacts of World War II on America. (2020, Jan 18). Retrieved from